Police shooting demands full disclosure
People the world over are demanding government in all its forms be held accountable. They are also demanding transparency: that government clearly communicate its activities to the people it represents.
Yet as the case of Keith Schueller demonstrates, accountability and transparency are not easy to come by.
Schueller was shot by police following first a car chase, which ended when he crashed into another vehicle, and then a foot chase, ending when Schueller was shot. The once-fit personal trainer is now confined to a wheelchair.
Police say Schueller was threatening a pursuing officer when he was shot; Schueller, who admits he had recently used drugs, says he was fleeing from officers when the bullet struck him in the back.
Regardless of the circumstances, state police still refuse to say a trooper shot Schueller in the back, relying instead on the term “upper body.”
Technically, that wording is defensible; the bullet remains lodged next to Schueller’s spine right at the waistline. Yet few people would understand from that term that Schueller was shot in the back.
It was only after the Cape Gazette obtained medical records showing where the bullet entered that the location of the wound became clear.
A state police spokesman has said there was no attempt at a cover-up. Still, the vague term “upper body” covers up the actual location of the wound.
If the police account is true, then why cloud the location of the bullet? Cloudiness is the opposite of transparency; it is the absence of transparency that raises questions and invites charges of a cover-up.
Police are armed; they are permitted to use deadly force. This extraordinary power demands that when deadly force is used, police owe the public a total and complete explanation of their actions.